Put It on the Card: The New Technologies for Accepting Payments

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The next time you ask a new client for a check to satisfy their retainer, they just might say, “What’s a check?”

The payments landscape is quickly evolving as more and more Millennials along with Generation Z workers enter the workforce. Make no mistake, we are quickly becoming a cash-less society.

As the payments landscape changes, lawyers in particular are adapting by increasing their acceptance of credit card payments. The number one reason is to receive payment faster, thus reducing Accounts Receivable balances. Depending on your credit card processor, some have the ability to deliver fast instant funding directly to your bank within seconds of a transaction.

Another reason is to provide clients the convenience to easily pay using their preferred payment method. Credit card payments can be collected traditionally in person, by phone and via Automated Clearing House. Soft ware-driven payment solutions allow cards to be accepted online through your existing website, via a mobile device, via a virtual receptionist and via a desktop, as well as by emailing the client an invoice with a link to pay.

Why limit the collection of payments to within business hours when you can extend this convenience on a 24/7 basis? Most working families reconcile their finances in the evening or on the weekends, not Monday morning at 9 a.m. By making it easier for your clients to pay, your practice will get paid faster, thus reducing accounts receivable and allowing your staff to focus time growing the practice instead of chasing delinquent clients. Paying credit card fees is less expensive than devoting payroll hours towards the collection of an outstanding AR balance.

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Ways to Pay

As mentioned, there are a multitude of ways to conveniently and securely begin accepting payments on credit cards from your clients:

  1. A Virtual Terminal. This allows a desktop PC to be converted into a payment processing terminal. Virtual terminals allow businesses to securely store sensitive credit card data, on the processors servers which reduces your PCI scope, for recurring billing purposes.
  2. Electronic Bill-Pay Solutions. These eliminate the practice of snail-mailing paper invoices by allowing electronic invoices to be emailed or texted with a click-to-pay link that can track payment progress. This convenient solution allows businesses to get paid faster by giving clients the personal choice to pay via their preferred method, whether it be phone, Web, mobile device or in person.
  3. Hosted Payment Pages. These simple yet elegant pages allow clients to make online payments anywhere, from any device 24/7 (yes, even when your office is closed!). Hosted payment pages have the added benefit of allowing the business owner to charge a convenience fee to off set or completely eliminate payment processing fees altogether.

These technology-enabled, soft ware-driven payment solutions are how payments will be handled as we progress into being a cashless society. The shift toward processing via technology heightens the need for strong data encryption security protocol to prevent financially devastating breaches that have hit big companies and knocked out small companies who do not have the resources to recover from fees as well as negative press. Recent breaches include Capital One which exposed 100 million credit card users, Equifax, Buca di Beppo, Planet Hollywood, Marriott Hotels, Kay Jewelers, Macy’s, Lord &Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue—and the impact and list continue to grow.

Skip the Middleman

When evaluating payment processors, many business owners and law firms are quick to focus on price. However, chasing the cheapest solution can wind up being the most costly to one’s practice. Instead, focus on partnering with a core processor that actually processes the transactions of payments across its secure platform.

Avoid partnering with a middleman or a reseller who does not own a processing platform but rather outsources payments to another company for processing. For example, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are the two largest middlemen who resell merchant services. However, neither bank processes a single credit card transaction.

Ensure that your processor takes security seriously. The most reputable processors offer the highest level of credit and debit card security available to protect against card-present data fraud and credit card breaches. They achieve this level of security by combining EMV electronic chip card technology to authenticate that a consumer’s card is genuine with end-to-end Encryption technology, which immediately encrypts credit and debit card data as it is entered so that no one else can read it.

They also employ Tokenization technology, which replaces card data with “tokens” which take the credit card information out of the equation, keeping it hidden from thieves. All of this data security should be backed by an unprecedented breach warranty offered to all merchants included at no additional cost.

Whatever method is best for your practice, taking advantage of electronic payments will keep efficiency high and costs and stress level low. Steve Martino

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